China Unicom speeds up W-CDMA network expansion

Iris Hong

China Unicom intends to invest 1.5 billion yuan ($219.6 million) in a third-phase W-CDMA network deployment covering 50 cities in seven provinces, expanding its W-CDMA network coverage to 334 cities, Chinese media reported.

The company plans to spend 1.1 billion yuan ($161 million) on the radio access network and 400 million yuan ($58.6 million) on ancillary equipment, said.

In related news, China Unicom kicked off commercial trial of W-CDMA services in 168 new cities on August 1, in addition to the previous 100 cities.

The company sold 47,000 W-CDMA handsets in Q2 and has set an internal target of 200,000 subscribers by the end of October.

China Unicom has conducted two phases of W-CDMA network deployment, with the first phase covering 56 key cities and the second phase 228 cities. Huawei, Ericsson, ZTE, Nokia Siemens Networks and Alcatel-Lucent are China Unicom's W-CDMA network equipment suppliers.

China Unicom's original plan was to complete the installation of 80,000 base stations and 70,000 indoor coverage systems in 284 cities before the end of this year. The project has been progressing ahead of schedule. Network deployment and optimization has been basically completed in all cities except the two large cities Beijing and Shanghai, said.

China Unicom's chairman Chang Xiaobing said in the beginning of this year that its estimated 3G capex would be 60 billion yuan ($8.8 billion) this year and 40 billion yuan in 2010. He expects the company's 3G business to make money next year.

China's three telecom operators have adopted three different 3G standards. China Unicom and China Telecom use the mature W-CDMA and cdma2000 standards respectively while China Mobile has chosen the homegrown TD-SCDMA, a standard backed by the government.

China Telecom's cdma2000 network now covers 342 cities and is expected to expand to 500 cities by the end of this year. Due to the slow commercialization of TD-SCDMA technology, China Mobile's TD-SCDMA network only has coverage in 38 cities, and will expand to a total of 238 cities at the end of this year.



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